May I Be Healthy? Thoughts on Yoga and Body Image From an Ex Skinny ChickJuly 13, 2015
I have been a model, a skinny chick, a competitive body builder, and 45 pounds overweight.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I used to think people were overweight because they were lazy, ate like crap or had no self-respect. I used judge and criticize people I deemed as fat…until I unexpectedly put on 45 lbs. in three months with no plausible explanation.
For most of my childhood I was underweight. It was just genetics, truth be told. I ate whatever I wanted and just couldn’t gain weight – I was so thin my 6th grade teacher even called social services because she thought I must be anorexic (clearly she’d never seen me hit the buffet).
I was also a model, but even at 5’6” and 98 lbs., the modeling industry still found faults with my body. Being treated like a piece of meat and a pretty face is so damaging even for those with the healthiest of body image. Thankfully, at 18 I quit modeling because my agent wouldn’t let me pierce my nose or get a tattoo.
At that point I started weight training, simply because I was so sick of people telling me how skinny I was and how I needed to eat more. I figured if I couldn’t put fat, on I could at least add muscle to make others more comfortable with my my build. My weight training quickly became an addiction: I started eating a very strict diet and began spending 2-3 hours a day, 7 days a week at the gym, training to become a competitive body builder.
As I became an adult, my ridiculously high metabolism had normalized and fitness had moved from addiction to enjoyment. I stayed active mostly by running, walking and some lighter weight training like push-ups. I still ate healthy, but allowed some treats. It was around this time I discovered yoga and began to practice regularly. I let go of my 6 pack obsession and comfortably settled into a happy, healthy and realistic weight; strong and supple, both in harmony.
I maintained this until about 32 years old and then – whammo! I gained 45 unexplained pounds in 3 months (which doctors have yet to figure out).
Suddenly, I was living in a body that was not mine. I didn’t know how to move in this new me, and I had no idea how I got there. I hadn’t gotten lazy, I hadn’t started eating like crap. I was just suddenly fatter and exhausted.
My yoga practice had to change due to the extra soft bits I had on the front of me, and I had no clue how to modify the poses for my new shape. This sudden weight gain was really hard on me physically, emotionally and mentally.
I was exhausted and heavier than I had ever been.
Since I was already well-practiced at judging those who were fat, I now turned that judgement on to myself. But still, no matter what I did, the weight stuck! I started to realize that you can do everything “right” (eat healthy, nourishing meals, exercise often, get enough sleep) and still be overweight.
Because of this shift in my body, I had come to realize my previous judgements simply weren’t true. This forced me to dig deep and unearth a few aha’s, a big dose of humility and more compassion for all shapes and sizes.
It’s taken me almost 10 years in this larger version of me to stop obsessing about the weight gain. To accept that this may just be the way I’m meant to be.
Now my wish for myself (and the world) is to no longer focus on my weight. Instead, my intention and prayer is simply to be healthy. I’ve stopped looking at the number on a scale and switched my focus to nourishing my body, moving my body and caring for my body. Now, I want to be strong, supple and serene regardless of my weight.
Currently, I’m a yoga teacher who fits somewhere in between super the thin models on the cover of Yoga Journal and a curvy plus sized Yogi.
As I reflect on my many weights, eating habits and fitness levels, I have come to realize I’m actually healthier now than when I was thin! I’m stronger, more flexible and nutritionally sound. I eat my veggies, ride my bike and rock out on my Yoga mat nearly every day.
I am focusing on loving the me that is here now. If my body and weight shifts up or down, I’m going to love that me too.
Nyk Danu, Creator of “Real Yoga For The Rest Of Us”, teaches Yoga and Meditation in person and virtually on the internet. She is a self-professed Yoga Geek, Buddhist, Activist, Tattoo lover and Green tea addict . You can find out more about Nyk and sign up for free yoga videos on her website www.nykdanu.com
Thank you so much for this! I have gained twenty pounds out of nowhere and I hate my body. I’ve been working for 30 years on accepting myself for who I am (and not winning that battle) and now suddenly I’ve got this big middle age stomach roll. I am trying so hard to accept it.